Faculty Mentor

Dr. Maria G. Espinosa-Hernandez


This study examined gender differences in perceived barriers to communication about sex between mothers and adolescents (ages 12 to 19) in Mexico. We also explored associations between 3 risky sexual behaviors (contraception use, age of first coitus, and sexual experience) and these barriers separate by gender. A total of 1,436 participants (47% female) completed surveys measuring risky sexual behaviors and 3 barriers to communication (lack of confidence or knowledge about sex, talk perceived as encouraging sex, and talk perceived as unnecessary). Findings revealed that boys were likely to perceive more barriers to communication than were girls. Talk perceived as encouraging sex was associated with vaginal sex among all adolescents. Female adolescents who perceived their mother as having less knowledge and confidence about sex were also more likely to have had sexual intercourse and less likely to have used contraception. Boys who perceived talk as unnecessary were more likely to have had sexual intercourse. These findings amplify our understanding of both barriers to communication about sex and risky sexual behaviors among adolescents in Mexico.

Cover Page Note

I could not take credit for this paper without first acknowledging the help of my academic mentors and peers at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Despite many changes to my paper, Dr. Maria G. Espinosa-Hernandez and her lab were steadfast in their support, always offering constructive criticism and words of encouragement. I would also like to thank the members of my thesis committee, Dr. Antonio Puente and Dr. Jorge Figueroa, for contributing their insight and time. Moreover, this paper would not have been possible without the unconditional support from my parents and friends at UNCW who gave me company during the all-nighters at Randall Library. I also thank God for giving me strength and the faith that future research may bring us closer to solving some of the world’s challenges.